How Games Bring Out the Worst in Us, Part 2

Last post, we talked about how being picked on in a game has the potential to sour relationships and how kingmakers can turn people off certain games. Today, we will continue on to Part 2 of how games bring out the worst in us.

The next way a game can bring out the worst in us is…

2.  Allow players to be effectively or actually taken out of the game.

I got into “modern” board games through a tame group of friends in university. One of the first things we played was Bang! For those who don’t know, Bang! is a role guessing game. It is because people have no idea who each other are, you might end up with situations where innocents are being scapegoated and killed off just for the sake of information. In Bang! when you are killed off, you stay out of the game until it is over. Having said all that, one time I was playing with this group of friends and I saw a girl RAGE! I mean RAAAGGGEEE for a good while because she was prematurely killed off. After another forty minutes, she sat back down for the next round, out for vengeance and won.

I remember in one of the earlier iterations of my designs, I had rules that allowed players to be taken out. You can just see the expressions sour when testers are on the brink of being knocked out or have it happen out right. Back then, I didn’t have enough sense to cut the session short and testers ended up suffering through the playtest experience more than they should. When that particular session ended and testers were asked how they felt about the game, I was met with silence.

We play games because it is a social activity that many people can participate in. When people get knocked out and have to sit and watch, it defeats the purpose of the game. In addition, people are likely teamed up on and then knocked out. This results in a more extreme reaction than merely being picked on. At least if the game rules didn’t allow for knock outs, the player being picked on still has the satisfaction of being kingmaker. If they are knocked out, they are even denied that last bit of fun from retribution.

There is one thing worse than being knocked out. This is being kept alive because other players thought it would be “merciful” to keep you in game. Noooo! Just knock them out. They already have no chance of winning and not enough power to be kingmaker. Keeping them “in the game” is equivalent to dragging them across cement floor face first. If you have any respect for the opponent, just knock them out and let them grieve over the knock out, and don’t keep them in because you think you are being nice. I absolutely hate playing with such graceless players, and I’m sure many people do as well. Furthermore, you probably know some yourself.

What is the worst experience you have seen when a player gets knocked out of a game?

How Games Bring Out the Worst in Us, Part 1

Games are supposed to be fun and not make people feel angry after playing. Sometimes, our competitive spirit just bring out the absolute worst in us. Time and again, you will see these lists of games that make people angry or ruin friendships. Dice Tower and Kotaku give some excellent examples. In a discussion with one of my primary testers, we talked about what things in games that make us feel uncomfortable. This can be upsetting scenarios that occur frequently or an annoying main mechanic of the game.  This post begins a multi-part discussion on how games  bring out the worst in us.

The first way a game can bring out the worst in us is…

 1. Encourage teaming up on other players.

This happens when players have about the same magnitude of a resource, and that resource is required to win the game.  One player begins pulling ahead. When this happens, it will immediately generate enough attention or hate (in MMO terms) on the leading player. Since no one player alone can overwhelm the winning player, all remaining players will then team up on the leading player in order to prevent him or her from winning. What is the crime of the winning player? Simply for playing the game well. There is nothing that the winning player can do to prevent this, and has to sit there and take it.

Having said all this, scenes from childhood (or recent) games of Risk (or equally cutthroat alternative) should come to mind. For this reason, Risk is one of the most cited games to have ruined friendships. When such teaming up occurs, it isn’t because the winning players have made wrong moves. Quite contrary, they made the right moves. They can do nothing to protect themselves and what small lead they have against the imminent onslaught. They simply get dethroned. This frustration of helplessness can make any player feel upset. Some people even take it personally. Definitely don’t want to play games with those types of people…

It does not end here. The now dethroned player can no longer win the game. He has a choice of choosing the winner. Out of spite, he either chooses to help the player nicest to him to win the game, or maybe take down the player who brought upon their downfall.

All hail, the kingmaker!

In most games, the monarch maker is inherent to the mechanics, especially in games with high levels of confrontation.  This is because all players begin with on a leveled playing field and cannot take down others without help. It becomes necessary to use diplomacy and alliance to get ahead. Thus, people team up on others, and the victim is picked on. No one likes being picked on. At some point this has happened to each of us; even though it is a game, it can still leave a sour taste.

To prove the point, there was once a game of Citadels where I played with very close friends. I usually don’t get mad in games, but this time I lost it. I was winning and to stop my victory, they needed to figure out which role I was in order to have me assassinated. They began hinting at their own roles aloud to help with the process of elimination. “I am a church going man.” “I am a seafaring individual.” I got assassinated and my victory delayed one turn. I didn’t flip the table on them, but I did throw them the cards in my hand! And this is in a game where you cannot even team up easily without cheating the way they did! We still laugh about that incident whenever we played Citadels later and it has become a pleasant inside joke. But being picked on still isn’t pleasant.

Perhaps, there is a strategy in high confrontation games that require alliances to win. Don’t take the lead in the early game and creep around in second place. For some reason, second place draws much less hate from other players. Be a creeper, not a leader. Take the lead only when you can win.

At the end of the day, it’s just a game. It’s meant to be fun, and the way you behave in a game says a lot about your own character.

What are your thoughts on games that lead to monarch makers?

Inauguration and Games That Changed the Way I Design Games

Hi! This is the inaugurating post for Lumesperia. This is a blog for discussions of games, but it also reveals our own product development.  I am Jonathan, the founder and also a game designer. First of all, I would like to offer my thanks to Jamey Stegmaier. Without the advice of his blog (found here), I would be at a loss as to how to make my dream, of publishing a board game that I designed, into a reality.

Today, I would like to talk about games I played that changed the way I designed games. I’m sure each designer out there has their set list of games that inspired them. I would like to share my list here and how they changed the way I designed games.

300px-FloorGoban

Taken from Wikipedia

The most influential game is Go, the ancient game with a possible 5,000 years of history. What is so special about Go? When you sit down to think about it, Go is arguably the first worker placement game. Two players alternate placing stones of their own colour onto the nodes of an empty 19×19 grid. The meaning of each stone being placed is not outlined by a set rule or functions like our modern worker placement games, but is defined by the player placing the stone and the changing circumstances as more stones are being placed. For example, placing a worker on the income box allows the player to collect gold. In Go, the player defines the purpose of each “worker” placed. I have long been trying to replicate the abstract feel of worker placement, that can only be experienced in Go, in one of my own creations.

Paradigm_Deck

Paradigm Deck. Taken from Final Fantasy Wikia

The second most influential game is Final Fantasy XIII. *ducks for incoming objects for having named the game* Yes, yes, I know how some people feel about the character development, linearity of plot, etc. I am here to talk about mechanics. Which mechanic was inspiring to my game design? It would be the Paradigm Shift. In this game, the player takes on a party of three characters that can assume one of six roles. The roles are standard to most RPG games. The player can then set a combination of these roles to each of the three characters, and each such combination of three is called a Paradigm. Final Fantasy XIII allows the player to set six Paradigms for use in battle. This set of six Paradigms is called a Paradigm Deck. Over the course of battle, the player can, with a tap of the L1/LB button, to access the Paradigm Deck and change the Paradigm in use. Is the boss charging up for a big attack? Let’s shift to a defensive Paradigm. Is the party dying? Let’s shift to a healing Paradigm. After spending over a hundred hours into Final Fantasy XIII (and it’s sequel), I started wondering, if such a fluid class changing system can be implemented into a board game with the same elegance. This has been one of the projects I have been working on in the past year. While implementing an instantaneous class change mechanic in a board game brings to the table many tactical options, but it can become unpredictable without a proper framework.

Cardfight-vanguard-ep-12-6

Mandatory reveal of extra drawn cards due to game mechanics. From the anime.

The third most influential game goes to Cardfight Vanguard. I originally watched the anime to look for inspiration in my own work and it did not disappoint. Unlike most trading card games, Vanguard includes additional card draws at certain parts of the turn. These card draws must be revealed to the opponent; thus, making the game a little more predictable and strategic. If you know your opponent just drew a heavy defence card, you would proceed differently in your own attack phase. I found it to be an intuitive game to play that is easy to pick up. It is in the low learning curve that inspired me to do the same in my future creations.

What are some of the games that are influential to your designs?